Niagara Gazette —
Then he signs off with a swift, unforgettable kick.
“Say howdy to George Carter,” he says, “and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”
Anderson’s words, a timeless kiss-off to a hated boss, are also a puzzle: How could an illiterate man, newly released from bondage, produce such a work of sophisticated satire?
After the letter resurfaced online earlier this year, along with questions about its authenticity, The Associated Press sought answers.
From documents compiled by the AP and in interviews with scholars, Anderson emerges as a very real person and the very real author of his story — though, from the beginning, it was reported to have been “dictated.” His letter is an outstanding, but not unique, testament to the ability of slaves to turn horror into humor.
According to available records, Jordan Anderson was born somewhere in Tennessee around 1825 and by age 7 or 8 had been sold to a plantation owned by Gen. Paulding Anderson in Big Spring, Tenn. Patrick Henry Anderson was one of the general’s sons and, by the mid-1840s owned Jordan and other slaves. Jordan Anderson married Amanda McGregor in 1848 and they apparently had 11 children.
Union troops camped on the plantation, and Jordan was freed in 1864 by the Provost-Marshall-General of the Department of Nashville.
Jordan Anderson’s collaborator — to whom he reportedly dictated the letter — was a Dayton banker named Valentine Winters. An abolitionist who once hosted Abraham Lincoln at his mansion, Winters regarded the letter as excellent propaganda, according to Finkenbine. It was originally published in August 1865 by the Cincinnati Commercial, a paper with Republican leanings.
In a 2006 speech at a conference on slavery reparations, historian Raymond Winbush retold the story of Anderson’s letter. He also revealed that he had tracked down some of Patrick Henry Anderson’s descendants, still living in Big Spring.